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August 15, 2009 GMT
France, Switzerland and some fork letter words

Day 21 01/07/09

We left the camp site and seemed to pack up in a reasonable time this morning. After yesterdays farm lane detour we decided that it would be a good idea not to guess what were camp sites and what was not. More amazing scenery followed today but other wise uneventful. We were heading to Geneve today just so we could prepare ourselves for a new country and a new language tomorrow. We found a nice camp site by yet another lake, pulled in and set up near three other bikers. We realized not long after setting up camp that the camp site only took cash so we jumped back on to the bike to find a cash machine, this was harder than you would think especially as the sat nav was directing us to ďthe nearestĒ ATM. The sat nav and I have a very volatile relationship. After a few wrong turns we came to what the sat nav said was a bank, there wasnít one there. On to the next ďthe nearestĒ ATM and all the number plates looked different and on closer inspection so did the road signs. Yup we were in Switzerland. After some more interesting turns, we came across the actual border and considering we didnít have our passports, international drivers license or the other documents you are supposed to have with you, a quick u-turn was in order. When we did find a ATM our card was refusing to give us any money. So we went back to the campsite rather annoyed with this international bank card.


Day 22 02/07/09 France, Switzerland and some fork letter words.

We got up early knowing that we needed the bank before we left so we got most of what we could done and Rob headed off back to the bank while put down the tent. The three other bikers looked in with grins as I managed to get the tent down and pack it away successfully. Rob came back parked the bike and went off to pay and I loaded up the bike. I had finish loading up the donkey before Rob had got back so I started to make conversation with the three fellow bikers. They were really nice guys who came from Belgium and they were very helpful and gave us loads of information on what passes to take over the Alps. We had a good laugh before they left. When it was time for us to go I left Rob up with the bike and I told him I would meet him at the bottom of the hill. After a while of waiting I decided that I would go back up to see if everything was ok. I could tell by the look on Robís face that something had happened, even with his helmet on. Because the bike is so heavy it takes the both of us to take it off the centre stand but as I had gone Rob had a go himself. All was ok until it landed on his foot and as he tried to pull it out the bike lost balance and went over. Nothing major happened apart from a sore foot grazed shin and a broken indicator lense. Oops. (Rob EDIT: Itís funny, I couldnít stop it going over, but a little bit of anger and up she came again). Today we were actually going into Switzerland but would need a bike shop along the way. We made it into Switzerland with no dramas and the roads were pretty good along with a new indicator lenses. We got into Bern and Rob had noticed that there was a little bit of oil coming from one of the forks again, we found a petrol station and cleaned it up and pumped the forks. There wasnít much there so we werenít sure if the seals had gone again. We carried on to see if more oil would make an appearance. After pulling over again and another look. Yep one of the seals had gone again, this time it was the right one. They should have replaced both in Spain but who knows so off we went in search of a motorbike shop,. Lucky for us we found one just down the road. They didnít have the seals but gave us an address for another Yamaha dealer in the area. We pulled in more than a little nervous as we had to try and speak German, thankfully they guy in the shop spoke English and through a bit of pointing and sign language we managed to convey what was wrong with the bike. Once again the biker brotherhood shone through as he showed us the nearest campsite, lent us a bike (we just had to return it full of petrol) and even let us check our email. Rob took the bike in and came back with a Yamaha XT 600 Super Motard style. Looked great but for me on the back it was horrible. So all we could do now was wait for the phone call to tell us that the bike was ready. The camp site was actually really nice and every one was very friendly. It was then that we realized that they currency was Swiss Francs and not in Euros. So the quote for the fork seals was not 380 Euros after all.


xt660.jpg
The loan bike, while the divvy got new legs. It was heaps of fun for me, Jo didn't like it so much.


Day 23 03/07/09 Waiting

We woke up late-ish and took the morning slowly as we had to wait for the all clear phone call. As I came back from the shower Rob was dressed and ready to go in his bike gear, great I thought the bike was done I could start to pack up, apparently not, the phone call from the bike shop didnít bring us good news, we were told that the forks them selves were bent. A little bit confused I got dressed and off we went to the bike shop. Both forks were bent in fact. Fine (Rob was thinking of another 4 letter word starting with F) I was thinking but how did that happen. No accidents, no big bumps while breaking hard. The only think that we could think of was that perhaps they had been bent all along and when Rob changed the fork oil, he had put them back exactly as they were. And in Spain they had put them back slightly differently. We ordered the seals and new forks and left again for another night at the camp site. There was not much we could do but wait until they were ready.


Day 24 04/07/09 More waiting

So another lazy morning and a swim in the freezing cold river. We went for a bit of a ride to to fill in time while we were waiting for the phone to ring. We explained the situation to the owner/manager of the camp site and asked if it was ok to stay a little while longer while we waited for the bike to be ready. He was very understanding and stated that we could wait at the camp site for as long as we needed to. We popped into the bike shop on the way back from our little outing just to say hello and see how they were going. There was no problem for us about how long it would take we were just after an idea so we could figure out when we should start packing everything up. They were rushed off there feet, being a Saturday if was the busiest day of the week. We felt bad for disturbing them. They said about half two but Rob didnít go back until 3 just to give them a little bit of extra time and to fill the loan bike up with fuel. I stayed back at the camp and packed everything in to the panniers, took the tent down and strapped that to the top of the top box then all I could do was wait for Rob to come back with an almost brand new bike. We finally managed to be back on the road by about 5 oíclock; we said good bye and thank you to the very friendly camp site and hit the road. We would both like to say a big thank you to the guys at the bike shop, they really did everything they could for us. We are now heading for Zurich. Well, as close as we can get tonight anyway. We rode for a few hours through a thunderstorm and then decided to stop for a break and to see if there was a camp site about. We must have looked lost as a woman asked us if we needed help. So with our broken German and her broken English we asked about camping,. She described where a camp site was which would take us 50 minutes to get to, we said thank you and headed off in the direction she had indicated. We rode for about 10 minutes until we saw the camp site was just around the corner, silently thankful that it wasnít an hour away. It seemed to be a little pretentious and stuck up but we needed a camp and it was late so we stayed. A very beautiful location though. Oh yeah and they had a cheek to charge you for the showers after the 26Euro charge for a patch of lumpy grass. We made a horrible concoction of fish and pasta for dinner, went for a walk around the lake and then went to bed.


Day 25 05/07/09 Zurich and the Alps


Up at dawn todayÖ.Sorry kidding, I just wanted to write it. Last nights interesting fish leftovers for me and we started the pack and load up. As the bike was parked about 300 meters away we decided to bring it down to try and avoid lugging the luggage up the hill. Down I came with the bike and just as we were about to clip the luggage on a very nice man told us that it was forbidden by Swiss law to park the bike next to the tent. I thought the better of pointing to the bike that had been parked 10 meters from our tent all night and clipped the luggage on under his glare and then moved the bike in due course. Perhaps I was being a little stubborn but I didnít see his point. Off down the road we went and after a bit of fun and games we rolled into Zurich. It was Sunday so it was really quiet. After finding a suitable spot to lockup the bike, we went to the train station for the tourist info. With map in hand we started around the tourist walking trail. We did a bit of a whirl wind tour of Zurich and found it to be a very beautiful place with very friendly people. Even if there is fiberglass cows all around the place in various colours. After Zurich, the plan was to head into northern Italy after crossing the Alps. It was still quite early and until we got to Luzern, the idea was still quite solid. As we drew closer to Luzern I started to think about the bike and the ever darkening clouds ahead. We decided that we would stay one more night in Switzerland, check the bike and the weather for a crossing the next day. At the campsite we meet nice bloke called Alex. He kindly gave me the run of the camp workshop as I checked the bike over. He then became our personal guide, translator and friend for the rest of the stay. I witnessed him devour a mountain of food that even on my best days of eating lots I would not have been able to come close to. It was huge and he chatted away to us while eating it on his 15 minute break. I wonder if he could walk later that night. The water proofing was tested again that night as the lane our tent was on turned into a river then a lake. We are pleased to report that although the poles may break the tent is water proof even when under about 7cm of water.

cow.jpg
One of the many cows around Zurich


Day 26 06-07-09 Luzern to the Alps Ė Take two
After the torrential downpour the night before we hoped that the weather would improve and allow us to cross the Alps today. Unfortunately the morning greeted us with grey clouds and the promise of more rain, nor did the next day look any better. Our new friend assured us that tomorrow would be better mainly because it was his birthday and it never rains on his birthday. After an hour of humming and harring we decided that although Luzern was nice there was not a great difference between riding the in the rain today or the next. So off we set, said our goodbyes and started our crossing of the Alps. While getting supplies another bike pulled up and announced that he was lost and needed help. A quick look at our map and he was off again leaving us with the great news that the toll between here and the crossing we wanted was going to cost 30 Swiss francs. Not what we wanted to hear but none the less we where going and a ridiculously high toll charge was not going to stop us. The toll never became an issue because we never saw any toll gates. So up the switch backs and sharp turns we went with a bit of light rain to make me nervous while coming around wet corners expecting to see boulders, trucks or cows in our way. It soon stopped raining but the roads remained pretty wet, which I am sure Jo was happy about as it meant I was plodding along rather than attacking the corners as I may have around the Verdon Gouge. Along the way we saw the beautiful classical Swiss villages and amazing waterfalls. The biggest I have ever seen. We stopped at a dam close to the top of the Grimsel pass I think was about 2300m high, I say think because the GPS could not get any satellites so I canít be sure. The view was amazing as Iím sure you will agree from the picture below. Up, over and out came the sun which stayed out for the rest of the ride to the Italian border. I canít properly sum up how beautiful the crossing was. The fact that we where both a little sad that it was over and the fact I seriously considered turning around and doing it the other way should give you and idea of how good it was. Here are some more pics.

alps.jpg
Looking back down the way we came


alps2.jpg
Us all the way up there


Day 27 07-07-09
Today was another lazy sleep in, we were up at 8ish. Ate the leftovers from the night before packed up and pointed the bike southward towards Genova. The ride was fairly boring with the highlight being going passed the AGV helmet factory. Most of the scenery was open flat farm land. As we got closer to the coast so did the buildings around us. The villages started to meld into one big city, Genova. Just before we got into the big smoke we passed through another mountain range and as par usual (us and the mountains) it rained but only a little. Once in Genova the traffic started to get a little crazy and I fast discovered that I had to be a little more aggressive with where I wanted to go. I figured that if I could go close to keeping up with the scooters (which dart through the traffic) I was doing ok. Well that worked fine but in the end we pulled over to consult the GPS as we hadnít found any campsites and couldnít see any signs. The GPS was not much help and we broke out the phrase book and approached the nearest local. As seems to be the way, he informed us that there was one just around the corner. Sure enough there was and we are now camped at site built into the hills over looking the med.

beach.jpg
The beach near the campsite

Posted by Rob Mott at 12:17 PM GMT
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